An Assessment of the Use of Flame Retardant Plastics for Museum Applications
Leikach, Danielle Caryn
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Halogenated flame retardant plastic sheeting may help to reduce flame spread in museums; however, the plastics contain chemicals that may be harmful to museum objects in situ, particularly metals. This study assesses historical and contemporary problems and benefits associated with flame retardant plastics with respect to museum applications. This issue was addressed by pairing statistical data on museum fires with standard and novel methods for assessing corrosivity, while also creating a format for future assessments of fire-safety related practices as they are applied in museum settings. Flame retardant plastics were found to cause small rates of corrosion in copper, approximately 1.2 milli-inches per year (mpy), compared to pure polyethylene which corrodes at approximately 0.83 mpy. Conventional testing methods show that flame retardant plastics can be considered safe for limited museum use and that they delay ignition from small heat sources, but they must be assessed for each individual scenario.